Car Body Styles Explained

In this guide, we will help explain the main types of car body styles that are currently available here at JCT600 as well as any other terms you may have come across. 

Jump to the sections using the links below:

Hatchback
Saloon
Coupé
Estate
Convertible
SUV
MPV
Pick-up


Hatchback

SEAT Leon

Hatchbacks are defined by what is known as a ‘two-box’ design where there are separate box areas for the engine and then the cabin combined with the boot.

The boot and rear window on hatchbacks lift as one part and this is classed as a door, which is why they are referred to as 3 or 5 door cars. (Audi refer to a 5 door hatchback as a ‘Sportback’).

In the back of hatchbacks, the rear seats can often be adjusted to lay flat (or partly) to create a larger boot area too.

Hatchback model examples:

– Volkswagen Golf
– Mercedes-Benz A-Class
– BMW 1 Series
– Mazda3
– SEAT Leon


Saloon

Audi A6

Compared to the two-box hatchback, a saloon is often described as a ‘three-box’ car as they include three separate areas – an engine area, a cabin area, and a separate boot area.

A saloon will typically seat five passengers and has a fixed roof that maintains full height from the front to the back-rear windows. The longer wheelbase allows more legroom for passengers too and it is also quieter as the boot is separated from the cabin area.

However, the compromise often comes with boot space, which tends to be smaller than that offered by hatchbacks.

Saloon model examples:

– Vauxhall Insignia
– Audi A6
– Mercedes-Benz E-Class
– BMW 5 Series
– Volkswagen Passat


Coupé

BMW 2 Series Coupe

A coupé is essentially a 2-door version of a saloon model. The shape of a coupé is often the giveaway as the back of the car slopes down and joins the rear bumper, giving them a more streamline and sleek look that appeals to many car buyers.

The sloping design does mean that there is less space for passengers seated in the back, though.

Coupé model examples:

– BMW 2 Series Coupé
– Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé
– Volkswagen Scirocco


Estate

New 308 Estate

Estates tend to be based on saloon and hatchbacks but with an extended rear which includes a boot that goes from the bottom of the car to the top. Not only this, the rear seats also fold down to create a van-like space at the back of the car. This makes them extremely practical if extra luggage space is needed.

Some manufacturers have additional terms they use for their estate models range such as ‘SW’ for Station Wagon and ‘ST’ for Sports Tourer. ‘Touring’ is used by BMW and ‘Avant’ by Audi too.

Estate model examples:

– Peugeot 308 SW 
– SEAT Leon ST
– BMW 3 Series Touring


Convertible (Cabriolet / Roadster)

Bentley Continental GT V8 S

A convertible is essentially a coupe with a retractable roof that can either be fabric (soft-top) or metal (hard-top). They are desirable and attractive cars that are great to drive with the added bonus of having the roof down when the weather is nice.

However, because of the storage space needed for the retractable roof, boot space is often at a premium.

There isn’t really a difference between convertible and cabriolet other than the manufacturer’s preference; however, roadsters are seen as a ‘sub-category’ as they include the retractable roof but are usually two-seater sports cars.

Convertible / Cabriolet model examples:

– Audi A5 Cabriolet
– Bentley Continental GTC
– C-Class Cabriolet

Roadster models examples:

– Mazda MX-5
– Porsche Boxster
– Lotus Elise


SUV (Crossover / 4X4 )

Kia Sportage

The term ‘SUV’ stands for ‘Sport-Utility Vehicle’ which doesn’t really help explain what it means and is why it is one of the most confusing car body style terms used today!

An SUV was originally used to refer to cars that were rugged, sturdy and that included four-wheel drive for off-road use. They offered a spacious interior and a big boot too – they were as good as a pick-up truck, but overall they were designed to be like a car you’d drive on the road.

However, nowadays the term SUV refers to a bigger model that offers more power and luggage capacity but doesn’t include four-wheel drive as standard.

Other terms such as ‘Crossover’ also add confusion too; these are taller than a hatchback and are essentially a small SUV.

To confirm, ‘4×4’ refers to the drivetrain which are the components on a car that transfer power from the transmission to the wheels in order for it to drive forward. This means it has nothing to do with the body type, and can be a feature of any car from an Audi TT to a BMW X1 model.

SUV/Crossover model examples:

– Kia Sportage
– Mazda CX-5
– SEAT Ateca
– Kia Soul
– Volkswagen Tiguan


MPV (People carrier)

Vauxhall ZAFIRA TOURER

The term ‘MPV’ stands for ‘Multi-Purpose Vehicle’. These cars are also often referred to as people carriers, and resemble an extended estate with a raised ceiling and larger cabin area. They are very practical offering more passenger capacity on board and generally seat from six to eight people. You could also fold the rear rows down and create a van-like loading bay.

The main criticism levelled at MPVs is that they are often not very appealing to the eye, but it’s worth seeing past this given how practical they can be.

BMW also refer to their MPV’s as Tourer – there are 2 Series Active Tourer and 2 Series Gran Tourer model versions.

MPV / People carrier model examples:

– SEAT Alhambra
– Vauxhall Zafira
– Mercedes-Benz V Class


Pick-up

Volkswagen Amarok

Pick-ups have a passenger area that is referred to as either a single cab for two people or a double cab for four or more. To the rear of the vehicle, there is a large area for storage that is referred to as a ‘bed’. The rear is typically open on pick-ups but can also be covered.

They are often seen as large, rugged vehicles that have been designed to get larger hauls from A to B.

Pick-up model examples:

– Volkswagen Amarok


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